Peter Falk got to pick Columbo's car and this is why he chose the Peugeot 403
You could say the car the Columbo star chose won by a nose.
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Columbo was the total package when it came to detective stereotypes: He wore a frumpy, wrinkled trenchcoat, smoked a foul, fat cigar and drove a beat-up car. These character flaws were by design and meant to stand as a funny contradiction to his immaculate approach to solving crime, but even still, when actor Peter Falk first found out his now-famous TV detective had to drive a junker, he was not happy about it. He even told the producers that the idea was overkill and unnecessary.
You could hardly blame him, either. I mean, have you seen the whips Perry Mason gets to drive? We know detectives don't make lawyer money, but this is fiction, not reality! Just consider how Highway Patrol got to use those slick Buicks! But in the end, the producers relented only a little and told Falk that he could pick out the car he wanted from the many makes and models stashed on the studio back lot. He might not get a Mercedes or even a Lincoln, but he'd at least get to choose his own ride.
Still, after surveying his options, Falk came up empty. It actually wasn't until he saw just the nose of a car jutting out from the very back of the lot that the TV star knew he'd found the right wheels for Columbo. According to stltoday.com, the Peugeot 403 Cabriolet that fans recognize as the one used on the show didn't even have an engine when Falk pointed to it and made it a permanent piece of pop culture history.
The serendipity of it is that the Peugeot 403 was already well off car lots by the time it became known as Columbo's car. Only manufactured from 1955-1966, it was removed from assembly lines five years before Columbo came on air. By that time, it's likely these cars were already beginning to look a little well-worn if you did see one on the streets, which you could consider adds a layer of historical accuracy to the show.
One question we're afraid to ask when it comes to the car: How many air fresheners do you think it took to cover up the smell of those hard-boiled eggs Columbo liked to keep in his pocket? We're gonna guess a lot.